For some of us, the option to purchase a brand new snow blower is not financially viable. But the good news is that there is a thriving market of used snow blowers for sale. People in the fall upgrade their model for the winter season and need to get rid of their old one. And in the Spring, sometimes people need the space in their garage.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to be vigilant before purchasing. Knowing where to find deals and what to look for can be the difference in finding that hidden gem or being taken to the cleaners.
Where Can I Find Used Snow Blowers?
We should first start this section with a warning. When purchasing from someone you find online, it is important to take proper safety precautions. Knowing a potential buyer is carrying around hundreds of dollars makes them a prime robbery target. So meeting in a public, well-lit space is recommended. Also notifying people of where you will be going and who you will be meeting. Make sure to get a phone number of the person you are meeting as well.
If you’re in or near a city, Craigslist is always bustling with activity on their “For Sale” section. It’s been my go-to source when buying or selling power tools.
While the site looks outdated, the features are not. When you create an account, you can save searches. Say you are looking for a Honda snow blower. If none are available in the area, you can save the search and have it notify you whenever one pops up for sale. This is a great way to find a great deal if you’re patient.
A good tip is to check the box in your search that requires a photo. Anyone who can’t supply a photo isn’t serious about a sale. You can utilize a function called piping which lets you search for multiple types of snow blowers. For instance, if you would like a Toro or Honda snow blower, search “Toro|Honda snow blower”. Also look for other variations of terms like snowblower and snow thrower.
Using Craigslist advanced search to narrow down a Toro snow blower
Ebay is a global marketplace filled with practically any product you can dream of. And a lot of people use it to sell both new and used snow blowers.
One great feature with Ebay is the ability to narrow down searches so well. Search for just “snow blower” and work from there. Choose “Used” condition, the brand, the type (single-stage, two-stage, etc), and so on. Then narrow your search down to a mile radius from your home.
Fees are typically higher with Ebay meaning deals aren’t always there. But it’s the safest route since there is a receipt of the transaction and buyer protection offered. This may be helpful if someone tries to pass off damaged goods to you.
Over the last couple years, Facebook has started to creep into the local “For Sale” marketplace, and that is a big win for us. Of course this comes with the caveat that the company is going to use and abuse any information you provide. But if you already have a Facebook account, it’s too late, so continue reading. If you don’t, it might be best to sit this out. The marketplace isn’t worth signing up for on its own.
Go to your Facebook account, look to the left hand column and click on Marketplace. Once you are here, you can type in what you are looking for. For example: “Toro Snowblower”. Facebook does not have the cool tools that Craigslist does to alert you when something comes up for sale. But they do have fancy (scary?) technology that makes suggestions for you based on your search history.
What I recommend is starting broad with your search (like searching for snow blowers) and saving items you may be interested in. Facebook will start looking at other items that are similar, not just with words in the description, but also with similar shapes or colors.
The biggest annoyance with Facebook is that you need to use their messenger app to contact people.
A look at snow blowers for sale in the Chicago area on the Facebook Marketplace
Small Engine Repair Shops
As someone who has operated one of these, there were always a handful of used snow blowers we had for sale. These were usually purchased from customers who didn’t want to invest anymore money into their existing machine. So we would buy for cheap, fix them up, and sell them.
The benefit here is you’ve had a professional inspecting the machine. Often times you can get some kind of short warranty on it as well.
I’ve had a lot of luck at these over the years. This is usually a case where a homeowner is trying to unload as much stuff as they can and are willing to be flexible on price. If you see one in the area, slow down and take a look.
What to look for when buying a used snow blower?
While finding the right used snow blower can be time consuming, the most important aspect is making sure you aren’t buying a dud. In a perfect situation, there will be snow on the ground and you can test drive the machine for yourself. But most of the time, you’ll have to rely on a quick inspection. Here’s what to look for:
Ease of Start
You’ll want to take note of how easily the snow blower starts. Does it require multiple pulls? This is also a good opportunity to test out the electric start option that most models of the past decade have installed. Note the seller might not have an electrical cord handy, so bring your own.
You’ll want to start up the machine and take it to full throttle. Then listen closely. Any sort of knocking or grinding is bad news. Surging can be a warning sign that the carburetor needs to be cleaned or replaced.
When you’re dealing with moisture, salt, and metal, rust is almost inevitable. And in small amounts, it’s not a big deal (especially if the price is right). A wire brush and some paint can fix up a little surface rust. It’s the excessive rust in the housing, rims, or around the skid shoes that you need to worry about. When that rots through, you’re going to be out some money.
Give the impeller shaft and auger rakes a good shake. If they’re too loose, that’s a problem. Same goes for the wheels. Check for dangling wires and anything else that doesn’t feel right.
Check the belts for wear and if they are tracking straight. If you notice damage here, it might be an opportunity to negotiate down in price and fix yourself.
This is arguably the biggest mistake I see from buyers of used snow blowers. Everything on the machine works great but the tires have no tread. This means you’ll be slipping and sliding all over the driveway. If you notice a problem, note that you’ll either need to replace them or purchase chains. Another opportunity to negotiate the price down a bit.
You can get a lot of information by just asking questions. Find out why they are selling. Where they have taken the blower for repairs in the past. How often it was used. And even where they stored it during the Summer.
When is the best time to buy a used snow blower?
There is no right answer here. You can often find great deals when looking in the Spring. A light winter may have caused an owner to rethink their purchase. Or they don’t have the space to store it.
The early fall is also an ideal time. Especially around the first snowfall. People are upgrading their machines and looking for a little cash for the old one. You’ll see a lot of ads pop up around November.
But perhaps the best time is when there is snow on the ground. This gives you the chance to test the blower out in an ideal setting. While a thorough inspection on your end can spot obvious issues, some problems can’t be seen until the machine is put to the test.
What brand of used snow blower is best?
There are a lot of good brands out there. Honda is built to last and if purchased in the right condition, should last a long time. I’d always be on the lookout for one of those. Other than that, I think sticking with Ariens, Toro, and Briggs & Stratton made machines are your safest bet.
What brands of used snow blower should I avoid?
I’m not a fan of older Cub Cadet models. They’ve improved a great deal in recent years, but the older ones always seem to have problems. Same can be said for Poulan.
Also avoid models that replacement parts are no longer available for. This is a mistake a lot of people make.
It’s also a huge gamble to purchase a cordless snow blower that comes with batteries. It’s tough to tell the condition of them and you might find yourself dumping another $100 out for a replacement. But if you do, make sure it’s the manufacturer battery and not some generic knockoff. Or just buy a new one. We have a section to help determine what is the best cordless snow blower on the market.
Below is an informative video you should watch before purchasing. It covers many of the same topics and then some.